21 October 2004
Tucker: the man and his smarm
I've stayed off the Tucker Carlson/Jon Stewart dustup, mostly because I'm not a regular viewer of either Crossfire or The Daily Show, but partly because I could never say anything as pithy as Wing Chun does:
Imagine, for a second, that you're Tucker Carlson. (Let me help you to get into character: you're a dead-eyed assberet.) You know that, of the conservative pundits a group that includes such non-luminaries as Sean Hannity and your own colleague Robert Novak you are marginally the least loathsome. You are occasionally, privately, able to break from Republican doctrine (as he did in Vanity Fair this summer, talking some shit about the even more odious Karen Hughes). But on camera, you have an image to project, and that image involves a bowtie. If you ever had any idea of being a respectable journalist, that was a long time ago, and you can never go back. You hear the things that come out of your mouth sometimes and you realize you sound like someone who's never known the touch of any woman, never mind unconditional maternal affection. You would hate yourself if you weren't already dead inside.
And then one day, you're sitting across the desk from Jon Stewart, who gets to say whatever he wants about politics. He doesn't have to adhere to rigid party lines, because he's not a pundit; he also doesn't have to pretend to be objective on the candidates, because he's not a journalist. He gets to comment on politics to a tremendously receptive audience. He has an enormous amount of influence, and yet, because he's a comedian, he has no accountability. You're so jealous of him!
Then he starts talking, and it's like he's reading your secret diary. He's calling out every doubt you ever had about your career. He's got the crowd your crowd completely on his side. You can't argue with what he's saying because you know he's right, so you respond the only way you know how: barking weak put-downs and making straw man arguments. And since he can counter your claim that he doesn't report the news well by saying he has no mandate nor any responsibility to do so since he is a comedian your only option is to try to get the last word by saying he isn't funny.
I could quibble with bits and pieces of this. Regular readers will no doubt be able to come up with a list of loathsome liberal pundits, and I suspect Jon Stewart, deep inside, thinks he has some sort of mandate The Daily Show's current tagline is "The Most Trusted Name in Fake News," after all but whenever I've seen Tucker Carlson on the air, I've always wondered just what it would take to fill up that obvious emptiness inside; I suspect she's gotten Carlson dead to rights. And of all the variations on rectal millinery I've seen in the last year, I think I like "assberet" the best.